Theatergoing opportunities abound in Southern California. Here's a list of tips to help make the experience comfortable and fun:
* Read theater reviews, check theater listings.
* Call theaters in advance for age recommendations and content advisories.
* Ask if there is a study guide or other background material available; go to a theater's Web site for show information.
* Ask about student discounts, pay-what-you-can performances, two-for-ones and rush tickets (greatly reduced tickets sold on the day of a performance, a couple of hours before curtain).
* Let children observe how you make a reservation, collect tickets at the box office and receive a program as you enter the theater.
* You're not required to be dressy. ("If your kid hates wearing a suit, don't put him in a suit to come to the theater," advises Pasadena Playhouse artistic director Sheldon Epps.)
* Read the program together before the show starts.
* Talk about the differences between a movie and TV and a live performance.
* Sometimes children are invited to sit up front or on the floor for interaction or a better view; otherwise, sit with your child to share the experience.
* Be prepared to leave early if very young children are bored or upset; sometimes the experience--the people, the lights, the darkness--can overwhelm a preschooler.
* Not talking during a show is important, but clapping and laughter, as well as invited vocal responses during participatory shows, are great; actors love them.
* After the show, talk about the play's content, the sets, the lights, the sound, the acting. ("Help them understand they witnessed a piece of art that all these people put together," says Jay McAdams, executive director, 24th Street Theatre.) Ask what emotions they felt during the play, what they liked the best, how they think it could have been better.
* Before or after you go to the show, get the play or source material, if available, at a bookstore or library and read it together.
* For more information, consider such resources as A.S.K. Theater Projects (Kids' Week at the Theatre presenter), (310) 478-3200, http://www.askplay.org/ and the Theatre League Alliance (TheatreLA) (half-price tickets), http://www.theatrela.org/